The Ice Bucket Challenge from a Water Charity Perspective

Since I keep getting asked what I think of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, given my profession in providing water to places that have none, I thought this would be a great outlet to provide my answer.

My thoughts probably aren’t what you’re thinking. It’s great the ALSA stunt has more and more people talking about water scarcity and water related struggles (in their criticism of the ALS fundraiser), but the Ice Bucket Challenge has about as much to do with water waste as weeding your garden has to do with deforestation.

Those buckets of water aren’t as much as you think.

True, it’s hard to watch buckets of water wasted hundreds of times a day in my newsfeed, since each of those buckets is more water than most of the people I work with have for an entire day. But, the reality is that we, as Western world consumers, have used more water after drinking a morning to-go latte than what it probably took for fifty of those silly videos to be made. Once you calculate the water it took to produce the coffee, the sugar, the plastic, and the product distribution and transportation, that one Venti took approximately 53 gallons of water to get into your sleepy body.

And, here’s some bitter irony- it takes 1.85 gallons of water to manufacture the plastic for the container of the average commercial bottle of water. As a single consumer, that’s the water footprint we make each time we buy a 12-ounce Fiji.

A barrel of beer (32 gallons) takes 1,500 gallons of water to produce. A cotton shirt requires 400 gallons of water to grow the cotton needed for one conventional tee. A 4-ounce glass of wine took 28.8 gallons to produce.

So, is it a waste of water to dump it on your head? Yes. But, relative to everything else we do and consume daily (not for a good cause), it’s less than minimal. You can save the same amount of water turning off you sink when you brush your teeth.

ALS deserves the spotlight.

A close family friend was taken by ALS three years ago, and one of the most difficult parts of his struggle was the lack of options and understanding we have of this disease. It hit him hard and fast, and all we could do was watch this illness take everything from him. In a matter of months, he was transformed from a witty, generous, kind and jovial man into a shell of a person we did not recognize. It was heart wrenching to witness.

There is no one disease more deserving than any other. But ALS is no less. Kudos to everyone participating in this crazy challenge for believing in that.

This is a genius fundraiser and awareness campaign.

While probably not a fundraiser that can be duplicated, at least not on the same scale- since the novelty is probably the biggest appeal to participants- the millions of dollars this campaign has raised can be a foundation for further growth. And, as the director of a smaller nonprofit working hard for traction in the public eye, this huge. A single springboard of this magnitude for additional fundraising and program work might be what the ALSA needs to further grow their research and progress toward a cure.

The awareness resulting from this icy insanity need not be underestimated either. This kind of publicity is a nonprofit’s holy grail. Our organization hosts an annual Shower Strike, and the value of this campaign goes far beyond the dollars we raise. The more people who know about our cause, the closer we are to solving it.

If you would like to translate your own newfound awareness of ALS, please consider calling or writing your members of Congress the request that they stop cutting the National Institutes of Health budget. This is where the vast majority of medical research funding is. (The NIH pays out about 30 billion dollars a year for medical research.)

Back to the water crisis- if you truly care about water issues, here’s what you can do.

My first choice, if you feel compelled to learn more about or help those suffering from no water at all, would be to browse our website. We are implementing very impactful and sustainable water solutions for people who have none in east Africa.

If you’re interested in water conservation locally, there’s so much you can do to decrease your water footprint and contribute to lessening a rapidly impending water scarcity problem.

Here are a few easy actions you can take daily:

  • Substitute a consumer product that has a large water footprint with another with a smaller impact (e.g. eat less meat or wear artificial fiber clothes)
  • Shop locally to decrease transportation water consumption
  • Replace toilets with low flow models
  • Use water-efficient washing appliances and run them full
  • Turn of the shower when you lather and the sink when you brush
  • Waste less food

Please continue to give and act for your favorite charities! Also, please share this information on your social media to help us spread the message.

Resources used in this post:


(Via Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling)